JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to fend off a strong challenge from the country’s opposition leader in parliamentary elections Tuesday, emerging from an acrimonious campaign in a slightly better position to form Israel’s next government.
But with the sides nearly evenly divided, a victory by Netanyahu’s Likud Party still was not guaranteed. His chief rival, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, said he would make “every effort” to form a government, and an upstart centrist party led by a former Netanyahu ally-turned-rival was set to be the kingmaker. The country now heads into what could be weeks of negotiations over the makeup of the next coalition.
Both Netanyahu and Herzog will now compete for a chance to form a coalition that commands a majority in the 120-seat parliament, a daunting task in Israel’s fractured political landscape. Netanyahu appeared to have a better chance of cobbling together a government with right-wing and religious parties that he calls his “natural allies.” Herzog would have to appeal to more ideologically diverse parties.
He didn’t mince any words.
“We have been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a bad deal. It is a very bad deal. We are better off without it,” Netanyahu said, building a case that Iran was not just bent on developing nuclear weapons but was determined to “gobble” up defenseless countries in a wider play for dominance in the Middle East.
“We are being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That is just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal,” Netanyahu said to deafening cheers in the House of Representatives chamber, while issuing a firm warning that Israel would stand alone if necessary to defend the existence of the Jewish people.
I was able to listen to the entire speech live. It was remarkable on several fronts. First, the content of the speech was downright scary and put the issue squarely in front of the listener. Iran’s actions supporting terrorists, support of violent jihad, and history of lying and violating previous agreements are well documented. The Iranian leaders are not to be trusted and Netanyahu clearly explained why the deal terms being proposed are potentially disastrous to the safety of the world. This could not be more true:
“…the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons.”
The second aspect of the speech that was truly stunning was the pure moral clarity it conveyed. We all heard something that has been missing from our American politicians for quite some time. There was only one leader of the free world in Washington D.C. today, and he wasn’t in the White House.
President Obama is a small, petty man.
President Obama has added to his schedule an 11:30 am ET video conference with America’s top allies to discuss the situation in Ukraine, ensuring that neither he nor them will watch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plea before Congress and the world to reconsider the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu is scheduled to appear at 11:00 am. He likely won’t get going until several minutes later and will probably not even be at the halfway point by 11:30. And presumably, the Western leaders will be preparing for the meeting when he starts.
The video conference, which was scheduled just this morning, will include British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and European Commission President Donald Tusk. Obama will participate from the White House Situation Room.